Indian Complacency And Resurgence Of Militancy

30 October 2015
Rising Kashmir
Suhail Ahmad

Srinagar: Two years back, Oslo-based Centre for International and Strategic Analysis came up with an interesting report on the prospects of revival of militancy in Kashmir in view of the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Though the situation unfolding in Afghanistan does not seem to have any bearing on the status of militancy in Kashmir, there has been a surge in the number of encounters in the valley, pointing to the growing footprints of militants. Some people may argue that the revival of militancy was on the cards owing to the failure of Indian government to resolve the political issues which had led to the armed conflict in the first place. New Delhi has discredited the institution of dialogue paving way for a situation where there is a strong case for revival of militancy. In the past whenever the separatist leaders have met Pakistani diplomats and leaders,the politicians in Delhi questioned as to why they don't talk to Indian leadership as well. The separatists are averse to holding dialogue with New Delhi because it always ends in disappointment. When BJP was in the opposition, it criticised Manmohan Singh-led Congress government of committing a 'diplomatic blunder' by allowing Kashmiri leaders to meet Pakistani representatives on Indian soil. And when Narendra Modi came to power, the right-wing party went a step ahead and called off the Foreign Secretary-level talks in 2014.This year Modi government prompted Pakistan to call off National Security Advisor-level talks by insisting not to include Kashmir in the negotiations. This reflects the flawed political mindset in Delhi regarding Kashmir. Rather than asking 'why they (separatists) don't talk to Delhi?' the Indian politicians are more concerned of yielding diplomatic ground to Islamabad. Yes it is a diplomatic blunder, but of a different nature. It depicts the loss of trust in holding talks with Delhi. The institution of dialogue has lost its credibility in Kashmir so much that the word has come to mean sell out. Syed Ali Geelani has opposed dialogue with India citing the previous failures of the exercise. So far, his stand seems to be vindicated. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq talked about the need for dialogue process of the kind initiated by A B Vajpayee in the past. But he has also realised the lack of sincerity on part of the Indian politicians. Vajpayeehad expressed willingness to resolveKashmir issue 'within the ambit of justice and humanity', in a way acknowledging the genuine concerns of Kashmiris. Unfortunately, the seriousness reflected in Vajpayee's famous words has been missing in reality. As a result, Indian government has not been able to inculcate enough confidence among separatist leaders to hold dialogue without any apprehensions. India is known for its discomfort at the mention of human rights violations by armed forces in Kashmir so it is unlikely to consider the main demands of separatists like phased demilitarisation and revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This eventually limits the prospects of serious deliberations on Kashmir. I remember a debate aired on NDTV during the 2010 unrest wherein BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad blamed Pakistan for instigating trouble in the valley and called on the UPA government to take up the matter with Islamabad. To this argument the host quietly winded up the show saying that 'this time it is perhaps an issue between Srinagar and New Delhi'. Indian politicians are habitual of looking at Kashmir only through the prism of Indo-Pak relations. Back to the report of Centre for International and Strategic Analysis, it referred to the past trends among militant groups to relocate and join other struggles. The militant infrastructure and mindset leftover from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 80s was resurrected in Kashmir from late 80s-early 90s. The report quoted Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's Wali-ur-Rehman vowing to send fighters to Kashmir. It also quoted a Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen commander who had been fighting in Afghanistan telling Al-Jazeera that: 'many Kashmiris have been martyred in Afghanistan. So it is a debt that the Afghan Mujahedeen owe us.' However, the situation in Kashmir is more crucial for the resurgance of militancy than the Afghan factor. The militant groups will only take a chance when they find the local population receptive as was the case in 1990s. The disillusionment among Kashmiris, it seems, has served as a spur for revival of militancy in the valley. There are enough indications about the simmering discontentment. India wants peace in the valley (even if at gunpoint) not resolution of the issue while all that Kashmiris want is the peaceful settlement of the dispute. It remains to be seen whether the alienation will beckon a return to militancy in the long run, but the Indian government cannot just wish away the threat.